• Many wondered where the goals would come from, but thanks to a wonderful performance by Elias Hernandez, Mexico delivered.
By Luis Miguel Echegaray
July 10, 2017

Well, that was fun.

Juan Carlos Osorio may not have been physically available for Mexico’s Gold Cup opener against El Salvador on Sunday night, but there’s no doubt he felt the 3-1 win from the stands.

Disregarding the burden of his six-match suspension, the manager’s biggest obstacle with this unproven squad of young hopefuls was always going to be who would be the one to score. Prior to the match, the entire squad was only responsible for eight international goals, and with the added setback of the injury to Chivas striker Alan Pulido during El Tri’s friendly with Paraguay, many wondered where the offensive threat would come from.

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Anxiety, however, quickly vanished as the first goal arrived in the eighth minute, courtesy of an unlikely source, center back Hedgardo Marín,.

Marín, one of five Chivas players on the squad, met a delicious right-sided, in-swinging cross of a free kick taken by Elias Hernandez and scored with a powerful header. Since Marín joined Chivas in 2014, he had only scored one goal for the club. It took him six caps to match that with El Tri.   

But, alas, even without Osorio present, the same issues remain.

Mexico had not even finished celebrating when El Salvador caught the team napping after the whistle. Experienced El Tri captain Hugo Ayala allowed Nelson Bonilla so much time on the ball, he might as well had taken a moment to sit down and tie his laces before shooting…but that he did and the Salvadoran striker capitalized with a fantastic finish. It was the first goal from open play by El Salvador against Mexico in eight years.

This is a problem that Osorio must fix before the World Cup, because as we saw against Germany during the Confederations Cup, defending directly after losing possession is Mexico’s Achilles’ heel. Mexico didn’t concede right after losing the ball, but it’s the lack of concentration that leaves them vulnerable. This is a top priority going forward.

The lead returned to Mexico right before the half-hour thanks to Hernandez, and what a goal it was.

In the second half, Orbelin Pineda and Jesus Molina came on in order to strengthen the Mexican midfield and it paid off in short order as Pineda capitalized from another right-sided cross from Hernandez.

Hernandez was fantastic as the space given to him on the right hand side was so inviting, the winger from Leon couldn’t possibly take it for granted. It was a great performance and one that earned him man of the match.

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There was a slight worry in the 60th when Pineda received a knock, but he returned to the field shortly after being carried off.

Once the third goal was scored, the match ended up being a training session, where Mexico worked on possession and movement of the ball. The job was done, it was now time to work on developing more chemistry.

In the end, this was a good evening for this Mexican squad as they showed tremendous character and a will to go forward at every opportunity. With all due respect to El Salvador, we must take into consideration that the opposition will not be this team’s biggest challenge, but given the fact that this is a newly assembled unit, and one with hardly any international experience, Osorio can be extremely happy.